Kathmandu (dpa) - Hundreds of people died and many more were feared trapped under rubble in Nepal on Saturday after the landlocked country experienced its worst earthquake in more than 80 years.
Government officials put the death toll from the magnitude-7.9 earthquake at 1,470, and one said that figure could triple.
The tremor, the worst in Nepal since a powerful earthquake in 1934 killed 17,000, hit at 0611 GMT, flattening buildings across the country and razing many historic landmarks.
The tremblor was also felt in China, Bangladesh and India, where more than 40 deaths were reported.
Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat wrote on Twitter that the Nepalese army estimated 1,457 had died. The figure was later confirmed to reporters by Information Minister Minendra Rijal.
"The most destruction was witnessed in Gorkha district, the epicentre of the earthquake," he said, referring to an area west of Kathmandu. "Nepalese army have launched a rescue operation with night-visionhelicopters," he added in remarks broadcast on television.
Nepalese police told Kantipur, a Nepalese news website, that 45,000 people had been injured.
National Geological Society chief Lokbijay Adhikari told Kantipurthat Nepal experienced 65 aftershocks in the eight hours following the earthquake.
As night fell in Kathmandu, residents prepared to sleep on the streets. Many had lost their homes and others feared after shocks.
The ancient centre of the city was a picture of devastation. Roadslay cracked open, rescue workers and families scrambled in search for the missing among the ruins. Crowds gathered outside hospitals where beds with the injured spilled onto the streets.
"There is devastation everywhere. I saw two people get hit by bits of a falling building and die in New Road," said Yogesh Sitaula as he walked through the city. "There are fallen buildings and walls all over. People are being treated on streets. Hospitals are crammed."
Large sections of the city had no electricity and communication lines were also cute.